I ‘m not sure I’ve ever been to the beach and come back without a sunburn, even if just a minor one. But today, somehow, it happened. It might have been the sunscreen I used; mostly the fact that I used it at all*. I decided, in a place with very little A/C and a lot of hot, being sunburned was the last thing I wanted.
But I digress.
To celebrate my one week anniversary in Haiti on Wednesday, we (The Moses’, The McLaughlins, Rob, Dave (Marilyn’s brother), and two of McKenna Moses’ friends, and myself) traveled about 45 minutes from Cayes to Rainbow Beach . If you’ve ever been to Haiti with RMI, you’ve probably been to Zanglais. If you’ve ever been to Zanglais you’ve seen Rainbow Beach. I was kidding about the week anniversary thing.
The Southern coast of Haiti is covered by some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Small Islands and Inlets are scattered with palm trees, coconuts, tropical flowers, and lush green plants. White sand is met by clear blue ocean that stretches to the horizon and is met by mountains that rise to touch the bright blue sky. From Rainbow Beach you might think everything in Haiti is either green or blue.
The road we took to get to the beach is narrow and winds through the mountains. As with most any route you travel in Haiti, it is painted with a diverse landscape of sloping hills, small villages, markets, fields and farms. The thick green valley sits just below rolling hills which are brown and sparsely covered in a few trees, homes, and farmland. The hillsides and mountainsides have been severely deforested over the years, which is one of the causes of rock and landslides during hurricanes and rainy seasons. Efforts are being made though to replant trees, re-grow forests and reclaim land. Progress is slow but forward moving and that brings hope. Hopefully one day soon, this will be something of the past. In heavily populated areas, the road is busy as brightly and elaborately decorated tap-taps (a Haitian grown version of public transportation, somewhere between a taxi and a city bus), transport people back and forth. There are hectic roadside markets which congest the highway as those on foot share the road with trucks, tap-taps, motorbikes, and the occasional donkey. I don’t understand how it works and why more people don’t get hurt, but overall life has an ebb and flow here that somehow seems to work. If you get stuck driving behind a tap tap loaded down with people beep the horn, pass, and move back out onto open road. As quickly as you come upon these busy market places, you leave them behind and the surroundings return to a slower pace.
Not all beaches in Haiti are guarded but Rainbow Beach is. A small entrance fee is required to access the beach. It is well maintained and very quiet. The shore is deep and protected by a canopy of trees and you can park your vehicle right up against the ocean. Small tables are scattered about, perfect for setting up a picnic lunch. Between the Moses’ and the McLaughlin's’ we had an amazing spread of food; fried chicken, ham and cheese sandwiches (on homemade bread!), potato salad, baked beans, fresh cut watermelon, pineapple and a Haitian staple, mangos. I have never had a mango as delicious as the ones here in Haiti; sweet, juicy, and practically perfect!
It was an absolutely beautiful day; the kind of day that seems handmade especially for the beach. The weather was perfect; warm but not unbearably hot and there wasn’t a grey cloud in the sky. Between the eleven of us we managed to devour lunch, frolic, swim, stroll down the peninsula, snorkel, explore, what I like to call, the Lesser Known Barrier Reef and discover a never before seen species of sea creature (pic to follow). Billy, Rob and Savannah donned snorkeling gear and spent some time exploring the coral reef just a few yards from where we had planted ourselves and Debbie, Savannah, and I also explored the reef from above, checking out sea urchins, coral, sponges and crabs. I also spent a little time working on my tan (all the while wearing sunscreen, of course!*)
While exploring the shallow waters of the Lesser Known Barrier Reef, we came across this exquisite specimen; a new discovery, if you will, floating in the ocean at Rainbow Beach. We are now taking suggestions for naming our find. Feel free to submit your own ideas. All are welcome. (I’ll give $1 to the first person other than anyone mentioned in this post who can tell me what this really is.)